Haven't we been listening to talk of "100 years" of war in Iraq for 100 years now? It certainly feels that way. But this favorite talking point of the two Democrats presidential candidates is bogus.
"Instead of offering an exit strategy for Iraq, (Sen. John McCain is) offering us a 100-year occupation," Sen. Barack Obama said on the fifth anniversary of the coalition's move on the then-oppressed Iraq. But it could have been any day; Obama uses the sound bite often enough.
In late March, Sen. Hillary Clinton refused to be charmed by McCain's call to close Guantanamo Bay and droned on as she does: "While there is much to praise in Sen. McCain's speech, he and I continue to have a fundamental disagreement on Iraq. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain continues to oppose a swift and responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain discounts the warnings of our senior military leadership of the consequences of the Iraq war on the readiness of our armed forces, and on the need to focus on the forgotten front line in Afghanistan. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain wants to keep us tied to another country's civil war, and said 'it would be fine' with him if U.S. troops were in Iraq for 50 or even 100 years. That, in a nutshell, is the Bush/McCain Iraq policy."
Democrats plan to make the Bush/McCain parallel a key focus of their campaign this year. Whomever the Democratic nominee, the party pins their hopes on "100 years." They think it will resonate. One Obama adviser has said (about McCain's comment), "It's seldom you get such a clean shot. It's such a remarkably clean shot ... The 100 years comment is a frame." The adviser thinks he can spin McCain as wanting to continue "Bush's war" for 100 years. The adviser, like other Democrats, insists that McCain is "against public opinion on the war, and we're going to go make that clear."
What the "100 years" talk refers to is something McCain rightly said in response to a question during a New Hampshire town hall meeting in January. The question regarded Bush's statement that we could be in Iraq for 50 more years. McCain sensibly responded: "Make it 100. We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, that's fine with me. I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day."
When asked to clarify, he would go on to say that it could be 1,000 years, or even a million years. These are the lines that try Democrats' souls. But McCain was right about the long war. It was a sensible answer. And though it doesn't sound like the most attractive answer -- who wants 100 years in Iraq? -- it was straight talk from a senator who has a better track record on Iraq than most. And it may not hurt his campaign, either.
Pew reports that Americans are split about whether the war is going well or not. They're split over bringing the troops home or keeping them there. But they know that 4,000 American lives have been lost valiantly, and Americans don't like losing something they've gone into with their blood.
According to Pew, 53 percent of Americans think we can win this. A CBS poll indicates 42 percent acknowledging the surge has worked -- it's meant progress. Contrary to the way the Dems talk, a Gallup poll had a minority (18 percent) favoring withdrawing the troops immediately.
Say what you want about McCain, but he's been right about Iraq. He was right to say "no surrender." He was right to support the surge. By contrast, Obama has been endorsed by MoveOn.org, which had the nerve to suggest Gen. David Petraeus was betraying us with false information. Clinton refused to condemn the ad, which was no surprise given the disrespect she showed the general in congressional questioning.
Bottom line: Right now there are three choices on the table. Not one of them enthuses me. But only one is a leader. Maybe not on all the issues I care about, but if McCain looks out for the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, that's more than Clinton and Obama appear to be offering in their bids to be commander in chief.
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